Magazine for black British women reflects on 15 years

The longest running magazine for black British women has just celebrated its 15th birthday and is looking for a new editor, after Sherry Dixon announced her move to She, Caribbean.

Pride broke new ground when it launched, and now claims a circulation of 40,000.

Press Gazette asked the monthly’s former editors and its publisher about the challenges facing this niche market over the next 15 years.

Deirdre Forbes Editor, 1994-1996

There is a need for a magazine like Pride. There are certain issues that a white woman just would not understand.

When we launched, I got a lot of fantastic responses from American professionals who were amazed to see something like this coming out of Britain. The black British reading public is driven by what’s coming out of America. There’s heavy competition from Ebony and Essence. I’m breaking it down to money because the publishers of black media don’t have the same clout.

Joy Francis Editor, 2000 [Black British women] are in a state of redefinition and change. The magazine needs to be one step ahead of its readers. Yes, it’s a niche market but it’s also about being aware that there’s indirect competition to our target audience, making it not that niche. I had a lot of letters from Asian and white mothers with children of mixed race heritage. There is the “blended” family, people have black friends. There’s a broader base to account for.

I stayed for three issues. The reason I left was the lack of commitment to black British talent. You have to allow an editor to follow through with a vision for the publication. There was a narrow mentality that limited the editorial scope for black women and their experiences.

Pride has got itself into a groove and it has to diversify. What has been done in the past five years on a consistent basis in terms of [finding out] who we are and what we want?

Think about the biggest stars in the world — many of them are black. We are living in one of the most multi-racial countries in the world — if you can’t do it here, we’re in trouble.

Amina Taylor Editor, 2001-2004 When I joined [the industry] there were two rules in magazines — don’t use green and don’t use black women on your cover. Now magazines regularly use Jamelia and Halle Berry. There’s been a cultural shift and we have been at the forefront of that.

But the fact remains that in mainstream culture, black interests are an afterthought — a box to tick to fulfil advertising quota or to be seen to be doing the right thing.

In Monday’s G2 there was a fantastic interview with Alicia Keys by Chrissy Illey. In it, the journalist describes Alicia’s trademark dreadlocks as gone — but she never had dreads, but braids in her hair. Very clearly, people who understand their subjects are still needed more than ever.

Sherry Dixon Editor, 2004-2007 We found that online we gained a big American following and subscriptions base. In England, black is black and we talk about sex — Americans tend to be fluffy about it. We get to the point, we don’t fluff. Going global is the way.

No magazine can survive without advertisers. I look at advertising and I see no reflection of myself — I own a Barclaycard and a Prada bag.

Carl Cushnie Current publisher There are only approximately 500,000 black women in Britain. When you break that down over age and profile, Pride’s target market is 300,000. Most mainstream magazines such as Cosmo can break a profile down into a 23-year-old sassy woman, or if you’re Red, an older, mature woman. Our problem is that we can’t be that specific and if we did specify, our potential audience would be small.

Pride and ethic media has to work harder at coveting mainstream contracts from advertisers. We probably don’t organise ourselves in the way they would like. We do get community and government-based revenue and that focuses the attention. The consequence is not spending enough time knocking on the doors of the big agencies, but that’s a year’s work.

There is a need for this magazine. We can challenge our readers in a way the mainstream never does.

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